Note: This article originally published on PureFandom.com
Westworld 1×03 recap, “The Stray” aired Oct 16, 2016
A person’s past is a vital part of their future. A distinct memory — whether it be a pleasant one or not — shapes someone’s thoughts, behaviors, and reactions when faced with a similar situation down the line.
AIs who live the same day over and over again don’t have a memory to draw from in the human sense. But Westworld has found a way to give their hosts shape with a backstory. “Backstories do more than amuse guests. They anchor the hosts. It’s their cornerstone. The rest of their identity is built around it, layer by layer,” which was pointed out in episode 3. That’s no different for people.
It’s only fitting then, as Westworld continues to blur the line between AI and human, that we get the backstories of not just park hosts but many of the people creating the hosts as well.
We again open with Dolores and Bernard having one of their “hey here’s something important just don’t tell anyone about it” conversations in Bernard’s futuristic basement. This is where the audience quickly learns Bernard is shaped by his relationship with his son. His backstory may also be the most important of the episode.
Wait. May be the most important? Knowing what you already know as an avid and loyal Westworld watcher, whose backstory could possibly be more important!?
I’m glad you asked (even though I asked the question myself. Oh God I’ve reached the top level of the consciousness pyramid. I’m a lunatic). The most important backstory in episode three of Westworld is not Bernard’s or Teddy’s or Dolores’. It’s not a human’s or a host’s at all.
It’s the park’s.
In episode three we learn Ford wasn’t alone in building Westworld. He crafted the idea with a man named Arnold, who really got good and lost in building out the park. He created the pyramid of consciousness for the hosts during his three years living with them before Westworld opened, interacting with AIs more and actual humans less. The first three levels of the pyramid — memory, improvisation, and self-interest — could be handled just fine.
It was the top level, which was never discovered but had to do with man believing his thoughts to be voice of the Gods, that got Arnold in trouble. Ford himself said his partner’s “search for consciousness consumed him totally — he saw something that wasn’t there.” It ultimately led to his “accidental” death.
Not buying that for a second, by the way. And what is Ford doing not discouraging his business partners from scrubbing Arnold from the records!? The dude is shady. (Though young Anthony Hopkins is stoic as hell in that flashback. I digress)
So here we come full circle, which also proves to be the shape of Bernard’s backstory. We learn the relationship with his son is broken because Charlie passed away years ago, which of course is nowhere Dolores would understand because her boyfriend and father are killed on a daily basis and she wakes up the next day like nothing has happened.
A parent experiencing the death of his or her own child is described as the worst pain imaginable. Any parent would give their own life in exchange for spending one more minute with their child first. In Westworld, where AIs are created and backstories are crafted any way the park directors want, that feeling can also be extremely dangerous.
Originally the Westworld hosts can be seen as Ford’s children. But it’s clear now that Bernard has taken on Dolores as his own, and she is being crafted to fill an unfillable hole by any means necessary. That includes Bernard straying down Arnold’s path, despite the fact Ford told him he mustn’t, and entering the top level of the consciousness pyramid.
Bernard is now Dolores’ God. The difference is he couldn’t craft his son’s swimming accident to never occur. He’s giving Dolores second chances to live within the same day, making a gun appear to her wherever he sees fit, and quite literally making his thoughts the voice of her consciousness.
The two mistakes Arnold made are coming to fruition in the park. First, the last thing you want the hosts to be is conscious, and second, those who considered their thoughts to be voices of the Gods are lunatics. Now a lunatic is running Westworld.
Chaos is coming, alright. And now it’s on our farmhouse doorstep.
[Cut to black]
The episode is called “The Stray” by the way. You could call Bernard the stray, but obviously it refers to one of the hosts wandering off. But this wood chopping star gazer is important for a few reasons.
First, it can’t be understated how connected this entire world is. One guy goes missing and six more are out of place because no one else can start a fire and move the narrative forward.
This is the genius of Robert Ford. Within his new, expansive narrative we can assume he’s going to take separate stories and mesh them into something much bigger. This is evidenced by William (Jimmi Simpson) and his future brother-in-law thinking they’re going on a bounty mission. In fact, everything changes as Dolores comes charging in after she escapes her narrative.
Just another damsel in distress for white hat Billy to rescue! I guess people like to
read about the things follow the narratives they want the most and experience the least.
The second reason the stray can be seen as important because of what he almost does before bashing his own head in with a rock. That security guard who sleeps with a gun is 100% right. These hosts are one line of code away from going bat guano crazy and turning on the people.
Let’s go back to intertwining these narratives and look at what Ford has created for poor Teddy. Our lovable target practice of a host has once again found himself in a terrible situation against a bunch of supernatural-looking monsters. They have him circled, but don’t forget Teddy is a great shot, so he might be good. Then he spins and pumps them all full of lead! Teddy is saved!
Except for one small detail — THE HOSTS DON’T DIE. Now they could be humans, but Teddy described them too vividly as Wyatt’s men earlier for that. They’re part of his backstory memory. We may have immortal hosts in the park.
There’s a reason the episode cuts from the stray to the supernatural hosts back to the stray. Imagine those things are the ones holding a giant rock over a human’s head. You can press your luck if you want. I’m out.
Westworld airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO
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Image credit: HBO
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